Are tabletop tablet ordering systems stealing from guests?

A California diner was anything but entertained after he looked at his bill and saw he was charged an "entertainment fee" by Red Robin.

The fee came from the use of a Red Robin-owned tablet. The tablet has useful information for guests, such as the restaurant's menu and a way to order food and pay for the bill. But it also has games which the family restaurant chain charges for.

The diner didn't partake in any gaming, but his children got into the games section and started playing the available programs. The tablet specifically says there's a fee for playing games on the tablet, but it doesn't require an adult's consent to play.  Kids can just keep clicking accept buttons until the fee hits the bill.

How much was he charged? Just $1.99, but it's the principle of the matter, Dennis Trigueros, the diner, said.

Because if you take money from me and I have not consented to it that’s stealing from me... A dollar 99 makes no difference in my life. It’s truly an irrelevant figure.
— Dennis Trigueros, Red Robin diner

Trigueros contested the fee which was promptly dropped by Red Robin. He wouldn't have been legally required to pay that fee if Red Robin decided to push the matter. Parents aren't responsible for paying for unauthorized purchases made by children, according to local California police, but Trigeuros wonders how many other people are getting hit with the charge and don't know it.

Again, it's $1.99, so it shouldn't be breaking the bank of anyone going out to eat, but hidden fees like this come off as a very underhand business tactic, and one that'll definitely garner some bad reviews. Restaurants need to be super clear and transparent about what they're charging for when it comes to nontraditional fees.

In this case, it shouldn't be so easy for a child to make the game purchase. It doesn't matter how many pop up warnings appear in the tablet, the supervising adult needs to know that he or she are being charged.

Alongside the customer service issue is also how something like this affects your service staff. What a time sink it must be for servers to have to void the entertainment fee every time a guest sees it and complains. They're time is probably best used elsewhere. Of course, it's possible that enough customers miss the surcharge that Red Robin makes a nice chunk of change from it, so it may balance the time lost when servers have to void the fee.

Either way, being upfront about these nontraditional fees is probably the best course of action.